Elon Musk’s 19,000 tweets reveal his complicated relationship with Twitter


Elon Musk is a Twitter super user. He has tweeted more than 19,000 times since joining the platform 13 years ago. This year, he has tweeted an average of six times a day.

At least 150 of those posts are about Twitter itself, according to a Washington Post analysis.

Musk is now locked in an on-again-off-again struggle with the social media company as he tries to back out of a deal he made in April to acquire it for $44 billion. But some of his tweets make you wonder why he ever wanted it. Like many Twitter users, the richest man in the world has a love-hate relationship with the platform where he posts memes, videos of SpaceX launches and random musings about life, love, colonizing Mars and population collapse.

Unlike most Twitter users, Musk has long noted Twitter’s problems with spam and bots. (He has voiced suspicion that many of his 105 million followers are not actually real people.) Now the billionaire is arguing that he should be allowed to call off the purchase because Twitter has understated its bot problem.

Musk did not respond to a request for comment.

What follows are some of Musk’s most telling tweets about the company.

He ❤️s Twitter, he ❤️s it not

Does Musk even like the company he has offered to buy? He seems to have struggled with this question for years.

Since joining Twitter in 2009, Musk has amassed the fifth largest audience on the site, surpassing even Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga — as well as the @realdonaldtrump in its heyday.

Sometimes Musk seems to love Twitter and its reach. He’ll poll his users about its strength as a platform for free speech. He’ll ask whether they really want an edit button. But then he’ll get upset about the spam bots or a new emoji. The billionaire has also tweeted that he is taking a break from the site, most of which were short lived.

In many ways, Musk’s feed mirrors the roller coaster of emotion experienced by many Twitter users: One minute, he’s loving his ability to share his thoughts easily and engage with fans and followers. The next, he is noting how quickly conversations can become toxic.

In other ways, Musk’s relationship with Twitter is unique. After he tweeted in August 2018 that he had “funding secured” to take Tesla, his electric car company, private at $420 per share, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission sued him for allegedly misleading shareholders. How many users have a tweet that cost them $20 million?

He has long known about the bots

In May, when Musk first signaled that he was hesitant about the Twitter deal, he blamed Twitter’s alleged obfuscation about the number of fake bot accounts on the site. But his tweets show that he has been aware of the bot problem for years.

In 2018, he praised Twitter’s actions to remove fake accounts. He has since tweeted about bots more than 10 times.

On April 21, a week after he launched his hostile takeover bid, he tweeted that Twitter had the power to defeat the bot plague. In May, Musk accused Twitter of having no grasp of the problem. And when he backed out of the deal in July, he accused Twitter of having “failed or refused to” hand over information that would help him determine the true number of bot accounts.

Twitter has long estimated in regulatory filings that fewer than 5 percent of its monetizable daily users are spam and bots, and said that it has provided Musk with sufficient information on the issue.

His free speech concerns are new

Until last year, Musk rarely tweeted about Twitter’s role in guaranteeing freedom of speech. But since the platform banned Donald Trump and others in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, he’s become increasingly vocal about the idea that Twitter is essential to civic discourse.

A few days after Twitter banned Trump, Musk tweeted that people would be “super unhappy with West Coast high tech as the de facto arbiter of free speech.”

In March 2022, as Musk was quietly buying up a big stake in Twitter, he unspooled a string of tweets calling on Twitter to be politically neutral and to maintain wide access to its site or risk undermining democracy. A month later, after he agreed to purchase Twitter, Musk said he would restore Trump to the platform.

“Twitter has become kind of the de facto town square, so it’s just really important that people have … both the reality and the perception that they are able to speak freely within the bounds of the law,” he said in an April TED interview.

He has used Twitter against itself

This spring, Musk’s nearly 10 percent stake in Twitter transformed him from user to a minority owner overnight. As his campaign to buy the company unfolded, he used Twitter itself to shape public perception of the deal.

Sometimes his tweets were confusing. The same week he revealed his big stake in the company, he tweeted that Twitter might be dead. The next day, Twitter revealed he wouldn’t be joining the board after all.

Sometimes his tweets seemed like satire. His offer price for Twitter was $54.20 per share, causing speculation that it was an inside joke. (The number 420 is linked to marijuana.)

More importantly, he used Twitter to get his message across. He egged on Twitter shareholders when it appeared the board might reject his offer. Then, in May, he tweeted that the deal was on hold. At the time, the stock market was tanking — along with Musk’s personal wealth.

He continued to tweet doubts about the company — particularly allegations that its user base was riddled with bots — until finally attempting to call the deal off in July. The saga is scheduled to culminate in October in Delaware Chancery Court, where Twitter has sued Musk to force him to complete the purchase.

Some of Musk’s tweets could play a role in the trial. Did Twitter mislead Musk? Or does his tweeting history suggest that Musk has had a strong understanding of the platform’s strengths and weaknesses all along?

About this story

The Washington Post obtained nearly 19,000 Musk tweets — from his first tweet in June 2010 to September 2022 — from PolitiTweet.org and filtered them to identify the roughly 150 that mentioned Twitter or the names of the company’s executives.

Faiz Siddiqui contributed to this report. Editing by Karly Domb Sadof and Laura Stevens. Additional editing by Lisa Bonos, Virginia Singarayar, Monique Woo and Gaby Morera Di Núbila. Design and development by Aadit Tambe.

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